4 Reasons to Break Annoying Presentation Habits BEFORE You Present

August 19, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

Often, our learners walk into Turpin workshops expecting to focus on the little habits that are hard to break: saying “um,” “uh,” “like,” or “you know” too much; using uptalk (that habit that makes every statement sound like a question); fidgeting/not standing still; keeping hands in pockets; making a particular face or gesture. Our response is to say that when you are truly engaged and practicing both good, meaningful eye contact and thoughtful pausing, those habits tend to fall away. And most importantly, when you are presenting in a real work situation, we want you focused on engagement and explaining and discussing your content, not being distracted by concerns about goofy little habits.

However, if you’re someone in whom the habits are clearly really ingrained or you want to work on your particular habit just to make sure it goes away, I advise that you work on it in your real-life, low-stakes conversations. This has several benefits:

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  1. If you truly do work on your habits in normal conversations at work and at home, by the time your next VersB Chalkboardpresentation rolls around, the problem will be gone or at least seriously diminished.
  2. It will keep you from fixating on negative observations about yourself during your presentation, which is a guaranteed way to disengage from your audience and end up spinning inside your own head. That spinning kills your effectiveness much more certainly than any amount of uptalk or “like” ever could.
  3. Working on these things when talking with your friends or discussing work with colleagues informally is a safe way to improve your presentations when the stakes are low.
  4. You will be perceived by everyone you encounter as more adult, more authoritative, and more credible once your speech and stance have been permanently rid of these habits. A side benefit is that it works wonders with the cable guy, your significant other’s parents, and snooty restaurant hosts.

[Tweet “You will be perceived as more adult, more authoritative, and more credible.”]

In short, if there’s a presentation habit that’s driving you nuts, bring it out of the presentation space to work on in your day-to-day life so that by the time you’re in front of an audience, you, like, um, totally trust yourself to be on top of those habits, right?

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation”

What’s the Presentation Rule for…?

March 15, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Myths Debunked

During every workshop we’re asked about rules. Some of them we’ve addressed here on The Orderly Conversation Blog:

Other common rule questions focus on:

  • The best place to stand in the room
  • Whether and when to deliver a presentation seated
  • How long eye contact should be

While it would be nice if every aspect of the presentation process could be boiled down to a simple up or down rule, it’s not possible.

So our response, as I’m sure you can guess, is, “It depends.” The right answer always depends on context, the needs of the audience and the presenter’s habits and preferences.

Rules Confuse the Situation
The problem is that there are so many rules floating around they confuse the situation. While they look simple and executable, they often aren’t. So in an attempt to clear things up a bit, what follows is a list of rule categories. See if any of them look familiar.

  1. Some rules are actually goals:
    A lot of the rules people apply to the presentation process aren’t rules at all. They’re goals. “Be enthusiastic” is a goal. As is “be sure to adapt your content to your audience” and “don’t let the Q&A session get away from you.” Everyone shares these goals. Because they don’t focus on specific behaviors, they don’t really help. I could say to the person driving away from your house, “Be safe,” but all I’m really doing is wishing them well. No one would confuse “be safe” with a driving tip.
  2. Some rules don’t apply:
    Many rules prescribe certain behaviors. “Try not to say, ‘you know’ so much,” “don’t fidget,” and “no more than five bullet points per slide” are examples. The problem with these rules is that they may not be relevant for everyone. Making the effort to follow them could make the process more complicated than it needs to be. For example, if the person driving away from my house is my 85-year-old mother, saying, “Don’t go over the speed limit” is completely irrelevant. Unless it’s meant ironically.
  3. Rules that make things worse:
    Some rules come from an attempt to make presenters feel more comfortable, but they don’t work. “If you have trouble looking people in the eye, focus your eye contact on the back wall,” is a classic example of this. So is “use a pointer if you want to look more professional” and “leave your hands at your sides because gestures are distracting.” These rules need to be thrown out. They are built on faulty assumptions and encourage a flawed approach to the process.

This brings me to a fourth category I’ll call Your Rules. Your rules are useful. They describe specific behaviors—things you can do in the moment to be more successful. One of your rules might be to “pause a little longer than you feel is necessary at the beginning of your presentation” because you know that doing so helps you breathe and think. Or “move to the screen to point something out on your slide” because you know that you need to loosen up and gesture more freely. Your rules aren’t for everyone, but they work for you.

Successful presenters understand their individual, personal response to the presentation environment and have developed rules that will work for them. They are the result of an objective perspective, careful assessment and experimentation.

What rules have you tried to follow? Did they work?

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

What can I do to eliminate “um” from my speech when I present?

November 30, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Mary Clare Healy, Video

QUESTION: I say “um” a lot. What can I do to eliminate them from my speech?

Mary Clare Healy answers this frequently asked question on video:  Click the video to watch her answer.

Learn more at www.turpincommunication.com